Grant Morrison is extremely well known for his comics work. What may not be as well known about the comics writer that is has also written plays and short stories. Lovely Biscuits is a collection that gathers six of these works into one place. I myself searched for this book because I heard it contained "Red King Rising" -- an Alice and Wonderland play referenced I believe in Bryan Talbot's massive graphic narrative Alice in Sunderland -- and the short story "Lovecraft in Heaven."
Unfortunately, the book has become out-of-print and as such is extremely hard to find: never mind even purchase. I have seen just one copy of this book, which once sold for $13 or less, now sells from anywhere from over $90 to $400 give or take shipping costs from its country of origin.
If it is at all possible to get this from a library or view it in an Archives or Special Collections, I would suggest you do just that. However, just talking about the financial price of this book isn't enough. I want to talk about its content in such a way that someone thinking to search for and buy it will understand exactly what it is that they are getting.
The collection begins with an "Introduction" by one Stuart Home. Home seems to both attempt to fit Morrison's writings into, and contrast them with extreme prejudice against the idea of its place in a "Scottish literary renaissance." After that rather confusing discourse, Home talks a little bit about the enclosed writings themselves (which does not say much to the reader who has not yet seen them) and seems to claim that he would personally read them in the order that they have been organized. After discussing the works for a little while he then explains very briefly just how it is that it is hard to fit Morrison into anything, never mind a specific "Scottish literary culture."
Morrison's first writing is a short story called "The Braille Encyclopedia": a story about a blind girl named Patricia who seeks something more than just her solitary and unsatisfactory existence in Paris ... and finds a lot more than she bargains for. At its core, the story is an interesting idea -- about sins being written into the flesh and soul of a living library -- yet it is awkwardly executed with much reliance on trite literary devices and verses verging on purple prose. Also, one would think that an "Empire of the Senseless" would lack the sense of touch even read braille and unfortunately its twistedly erotic undertones fail at being "ludicrous paraphernalia" of any kind of arousal. Morrison just tries to too hard to create shock value here and it just does not work: even if as I said, the idea was an intriguing one.
The next story, "The Room Where Love Lives," is a very interesting one. Morrison writes it from the pedestal narrative of the chronicler of the occultist protagonist Aubrey Valentine. Where "Braille" failed, in many ways "The Room" succeeds. It is a place where erotic desire and passion is brought out in everyone and everything: whether they like it or not. A few evil powers attempt to use this room to drain procreative energies from human victims to release themselves on the world. It was a very interesting story: with intriguing references to Wilhelm Reich and his sexual theories as well as elements of mysticism and occultism. I did like the ending, because it was an unexpected one considering how the chronicler seems to hint on something having finally happened to Valentine on this particular exploit.
The story is written as though it is the last in a series of adventures by the Holmesian or Karnackian character of Valentine. However, the tone and the actual place of the adventure do not necessarily match up. One would think after reading this that it took place in the 19th or turn of the 20th century, yet there are some elements that do not line up with it. Also, there are aspects that are very awkwardly written and vague: such as The Mysteries being the evil beings that Valentine has to fight and the fate of the other victims of the room ... who just become ignored right after Valentine's final fate.
Then we get to "Red King Rising": one of the two plays that Morrison includes in this work. One very good interpretation of this play is that by using the characters of Alice and Lewis Carrol (not Charles Dodgson but his authorial persona), Morrison critiques the Victorian "dream" and where it will lead when the "dreamer" finally wakes up. For in its dreams of dead princes, patriarchal power and stratified poverty England seems to wake up into another dream ... of a red that not even "magic chalk circles" can protect a girl from. Indeed, in many ways this play exists in a similar place as Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell.
"Red King Rising" with its archetypal elements and its brutal look at class, modernity and murder (albeit with a strange and somewhat creepy use of Gene Austin's 1927 "Ain't She Sweet" at the end) is then followed by "Lovecraft in Heaven." It is a story about H.P. Lovecraft dying of his stomach cancer and realizing that all of his creations are real inside him and are just waiting to get out. There were some confusing parts in it: as to who the half-human boy is towards the end of the story, but I will leave it up to others to consider whether or not this story has a very unhappy or an incredibly joyful eldritch ending.
"Depravity" is the second play included in Lovely Biscuits and in many ways is a lot more mystical, convoluted and in some ways less accessible than "Red King Rising." It is the story of the poet Victor Neuburg (spelt Neuberg in the play) who talks to Edward Jensen about his apprenticeship under the infamous British magician Aleister Crowley and the traumatic event that supposedly led to his nervous breakdown. It is here that the darker, harsher elements of Crowley and his ideology are revealed as Neuburg becomes the "walking mummy of a previous age" and the sacrifice on the Wheel against the force known as Choronzon. As a force of pure chaos, if let into the world Choronzon can cause immense damage, though its weakness is silence and it is a very telling thing at the beginning of the play when Jensen states that, "Silence is not what it was" in these times.
It is this thought that leads to the final experimental writing in this collection called "I'm a Policeman." This is by far the most confusing and chaotic narratives in the entire book. It is like chaos is completely free. Morrison utilizes what seems to be or could be construed as post-modern fragmentary writing. Some of his passages are almost poetic. It is the story of a writer creating an advertisement in an England ruled by a voyeuristic-participant popular culture where everyone can see everyone else and make even murder an entertainment for the masses. It was the hardest narrative to read, although the protagonist's "Eureka!" moment was pretty amusing as was the end image of the entire thing.
This is what you will find in Lovely Biscuits: being assorted and sometimes disgusting confections which -- at the same time -- possess mysticism and is on similar cross-roads with Alan Moore's A Disease of Language and Promethea. I believe that "Red King Rising" and "Lovecraft in Heaven" are the best written ones, with "Depravity" and "The Room Where Love Lives" coming in close. There is an over-arching theme in each story about the sensual and alien coming through the sensible and concrete all the way to the point of "I am a Policeman" where that mask seems to have crumbled into almost non-existence under the chaos.
I think this is a very interesting look into how Morrison's creative sensibilities translate into other media: sometimes awkwardly, stilted, but even with some of these stories being potentially flawed, there is a lot to learn from "a Master's mistakes." Personally, I wish this book was brought back into print or downloaded onto the Internet for a whole lot less money than the remaining editions are. This is the same wish I have for the plays to be reprinted into separate volumes and for Grant Morrison's Bible John: A Forensic Meditation to be also reprinted again outside of Crisis. It probably won't happen, but it is a wishful thinking and another epic search into strange places.Read more ›